In the world of SEO or search engine optimization, there are the good guys, the ones that play by the rules, and the bad guys who try to trick Google’s algorithms to increase their site traffic. The term “white hat” represents the good guys and is also known as “ethical SEO”. Optimizing your site according to these procedures, your site will be less likely to be penalized by Google.
We will cover the bad guys or “black hat” SEO in a separate post. For the moment, this article focuses on the importance of white hat optimizations, techniques you can apply, and also its limitations.
Importance of White Hat SEO
The goal for all types of SEO is to get web pages to the top of Google search results to drive organic traffic to the optimized websites. Since there are millions of pages on the web, search engines need a way to differentiate and rank these pages in order of the ability to answer the search.
If your page is not on the first page of results, and preferably in the top 3 results overall, you’re not going to get meaningful organic traffic.
When someone types in their search query into search engines a list of sites appears on the search engine results page (SERP). SERPs typically contains two types of content – “organic” results and paid results.
White hat strategies influence the organic results that appear according to the search engine’s algorithms. If you are applying strategies based on giving value to your audience then you are in the white hat lane.
There are several advantages to getting traffic from white hat approaches. First of all, it is cheaper since you do not need to repair violations that have been penalized by Google for applying black hat tactics. Another advantage is consistency. Rankings that originate from a more stable, legitimate approach are more long-standing than quick tricks that Google eventually catches up to.
Finally, relevancy is probably the biggest advantage of white hat strategies. Because you are targeting and providing value to the individuals who are more likely to be looking for your material, there is a strong possibility they will engage and convert.
White Hat Techniques
- Provide quality content – The phrase, “content is king” is more relevant today than ever before. Providing your audience with materials and knowledge they are seeking is invaluable. Blog posts are used by 86% of marketing teams today.
- Keyword research – Choosing keywords that your audience is currently searching for is nearly a surefire way to get them to click on your content. At the same time, many people struggle with SEO because they choose to rank on keywords that are too competitive. If you research long-tail keywords, which are keyword phrases with three or more words, you can find phrases that are not as competitive and are still a popular search. You can use free sites like Uber Suggest and Answer the Public to locate long-tail keywords.
- Page speed – Does your webpage load in under 3 seconds? If not, it is time to condense videos, reformat images and install plugins to get your page speed down. Users get frustrated when sites do not load quickly; as such, Google ranks your page lower because it is not fulfilling the user experience.
- Mobile-friendly – Out of the 8.5 billion searches on Google every day, 63% of them originate from a mobile device. Fortunately, it is not difficult to make your website mobile-friendly. Google even released a simple mobile testing app where you can evaluate if your website is being penalized for mobile users.
- On-page – This practice refers to the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized. Adding things like metadata, alt tags, anchor text, headings, and sub-headings are just a few examples of applying on-page SEO strategies.
- Quality link building – Backlinks gained organically versus paid links have become a hallmark of SEO practices. Most linking will come from content and social media. If you are starting from square one and do not have many backlinks, you will need to do a lot of email outreach to websites that provide similar content for your users.
White Hat Limitations
Even though white hat SEO is typically more cost-effective than black hat, the barrier of entry is often too steep for many companies to implement. The recommended optimizations above certainly work, but there is a great deal of complexity and time needed to modify the technical aspects of your website.
Another challenge with white hat tactics is the amount of time it takes a website to rank to the first page of Google search results. Many organizations give up before the front page is realized. But if you consistently create strong content that your audience uses over time, you will surpass this barrier eventually.
The biggest limitation with white hat optimizations is competition. In certain industries you are up against many companies that have highly-optimized websites ranked purely with white hat techniques. In these aggressive markets to avoid waiting, sometimes years to reach the front page, you can either pay for advertising or create more digital strategies that enhance engagement.
Overall, white hat SEO strategies focus on providing your users with high-quality and relevant content that optimizes the user experience. By focusing on quality and user experience, it is only a matter of time before your website beats out the competition and is catapulted to the front page.
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